Complete text of the play with notes


by Christopher Marlowe


The Prologue

Mycetes, King of Persia
Cosroe, his brother
Persian Lords:
Tamburlaine, a Scythian shepherd
His followers:
Bajazeth, Emperor of the Turks
King of Argier
King of Fez
King of Morocco
Alcidamus, King of Arabia
Soldan of Egypt
Governor of Damascus
Median Lords:
Capolin, an Egyptian
Philemus, a messenger
A Spy

Zenocrate, daughter of the Soldan
Anippe, her maid
Zabina, wife to Bajazeth
Ebea, her maid

Virgins of Damascus, Messengers, Bassoes, Lords, Citizens, Moors, Soldiers, Attendants


   From jigging veins of rhyming mother wits,
   And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay,
   We'll lead you to the stately tent of war,
   Where you shall hear the Scythian Tamburlaine
   Threat'ning the world with high astounding terms
   And scourging kingdoms with his conquering sword.
   View but his picture in this tragic glass,
   And then applaud his fortunes as you please.


   Enter Mycetes, Cosroe, Meander, Theridamas, Ortygius,
   Ceneus, Menaphon, with others.

MYCETES. Brother Cosroe, I find myself aggrieved,
   Yet insufficient to express the same,
   For it requires a great and thund'ring speech.
   Good brother, tell the cause unto my lords;
   I know you have a better wit than I.
COSROE. Unhappy Persia, that in former age
   Hast been the seat of mighty conquerors,
   That in their prowess and their policies
   Have triumphed over Afric and the bounds
   Of Europe, where the sun dares scarce appear
   For freezing meteors and congealed cold,
   Now to be ruled and governed by a man
   At whose birthday Cynthia with Saturn joined,
   And Jove, the sun, and mercury denied
   To shed their influence in his fickle brain!
   Now Turks and Tartars shake their swords at thee,
   Meaning to mangle all thy provinces.
MYCETES. Brother, I see your meaning well enough,
   And through your planets I perceive you think
   I am not wise enough to be a king.
   But I refer me to my noblemen
   That know my wit, and can be witnesses.
   I might command you to be slain for this.
   Meander, might I not?
MEANDER. Not for so small a fault, my sovereign lord.
MYCETES. I mean it not, but yet I know I might.
   Yet live; yea live; Mycetes wills it so.
   Meander, thou, my faithful counselor,
   Declare the cause of my conceived grief,
   Which is, God knows, about that Tamburlaine,
   That, like a fox in midst of harvest time,
   Doth prey upon my flocks of passengers,
   And, as I hear, doth mean to pull my plumes.
   Therefore 'tis good and meet for to be wise.
MEANDER. Oft have I heard your majesty complain
   Of Tamburlaine, that sturdy Scythian thief
   That robs your merchants of Persepolis,
   Treading by land unto the Western Isles,
   And in your confines with his lawless train
   Daily commits incivil outrages,
   Hoping (misled by dreaming prophecies)
   To reign in Asia, and with barbarous arms
   To make himself the monarch of the East.
   But ere he march in Asia or display
   His vagrant ensign in the Persian fields,
   Your grace hath taken order by Theridamas,
   Charged with a thousand horse, to apprehend
   And bring him captive to your highness' throne.
MYCETES. Full true thou speak'st, and like thyself, my lord,
   Whom I may term a Damon for thy love.
   Therefore 'tis best, if so it like you all,
   To send my thousand horse incontinent
   To apprehend that paltry Scythian.
   How like you this, my honourable lords?
   Is it not a kingly resolution?
COSROE. It cannot choose, because it comes from you.
MYCETES. Then hear thy charge, valiant Theridamas,
   The chiefest captain of Mycetes' host,
   The hope of Persia, and the very legs
   Whereon our state doth lean, as on a staff
   That holds us up and foils our neighbour foes.
   Thou shalt be leader of this thousand horse,
   Whose foaming gall, with rage and high disdain,
   Have sworn the death of wicked Tamburlaine.
   Go frowning forth, but come thou smiling home,
   As did sir Paris with the Grecian dame.
   Return with speed; time passeth swift away.
   Our life is frail, and we may die today.
THERIDAMAS. Before the moon renew her borrowed light,
   Doubt not, my lord and gracious sovereign,
   But Tamburlaine and that Tartarian rout
   Shall either perish by our warlike hands
   Or plead for mercy at your highness' feet.
MYCETES. Go, stout Theridamas; thy words are swords,
   And with thy looks thou conquerest all thy foes.
   I long to see thee back return from thence,
   That I may view these milk-white steeds of mine
   All laden with the heads of killed men,
   And from their knees even to their hoofs below
   Besmeared with blood; that makes a dainty show.
THERIDAMAS. Then now, my lord, I humbly take my leave
MYCETES. Theridamas, farewell ten thousand times.

   Exit Theridamas.

   Ah, Menaphon, why stay'st thou thus behind
   When other men press forward for renown?
   Go, Menaphon, go into Scythia,
   And foot by foot follow Theridamas.
COSROE. Nay, pray you let him stay. A greater (task)
   Fits Menaphon than warring with a thief.
   Create him prorex of Assyria,
   That he may win the Babylonians' hearts,
   Which will revolt from Persian government
   Unless they have a wiser king than you.
MYCETES. 'Unless they have a wiser king than you'?
   These are his words; Meander, set them down.
COSROE. And add this to them: that all Asia
   Lament to see the folly of their king.
MYCETES. Well, here I swear by this my royal seat...
COSROE. You may do well to kiss it then.
MYCETES. Embossed with silk as best beseems my state,
   To be revenged for these contemptuous words.
   O, where is duty and allegiance now?
   Fled to the Caspian or the ocean main?
   What, shall I call thee brother? No, a foe,
   Monster of nature, shame unto thy stock,
   That dar'st presume thy sovereign for to mock.
   Meander come. I am abused, Meander.
    Exeunt all except Cosroe and Menaphon.

MENAPHON. How now, my lord? What, mated and amazed
   To hear the king thus threaten like himself?
COSROE. Ah, Menaphon, I pass not for his threats.
   The plot is laid by Persian noblemen
   And captains of the Medean garrisons
   To crown me Emperor of Asia.
   But this it is that doth excruciate
   The very substance of my vexed soul:
   To see our neighbours that were wont to quake
   And tremble at the Persian monarch's name
   Now sit and laugh our regiment to scorn;
   And that which might resolve me into tears,
   Men from the farthest equinoctial line
   Have swarmed in troops into the eastern India,
   Lading their ships with gold and precious stones,
   And made their spoils from all our provinces.
MENAPHON. This should entreat your highness to rejoice,
   Since fortune gives you opportunity
   To gain the title of a conqueror
   By curing of this maimed empery.
   Afric and Europe bordering on your land
   And continent to your dominions,
   How easily may you with a mighty host
   Pass into Graecia, as did Cyrus once,
   And cause them to withdraw their forces home,
   Lest you subdue the pride of Christendom.
COSROE. But, Menaphon, what means this trumpet's sound?
MENAPHON. Behold, my lord, Ortygius and the rest
   Bringing the crown to make you emperor!

   Enter Ortygius and Ceneus bearing a crown,
   with others.

ORTYGIUS. Magnificent and mighty prince Cosroe,
   We, in the name of other Persian states
   And commons of this mighty monarchy,
   Present thee with th' imperial diadem.
CENEUS. The warlike soldiers and the gentlemen,
   That heretofore have filled Persepolis
   With Afric captains taken in the field,
   Whose ransom made them march in coats of gold,
   With costly jewels hanging at their ears
   And shining stones upon their lofty crests,
   Now living idle in the walled towns,
   Wanting both pay and martial discipline,
   Begin in troops to threaten civil war
   And openly exclaim against the king.
   Therefore, to stay all sudden mutinies,
   We will invest your highness emperor,
   Whereat the soldiers will conceive more joy
   Than did the Macedonians at the spoil
   Of great Darius and his wealthy host.
COSROE. Well, since I see the state of Persia droop
   And languish in my brother's government,
   I willingly receive th' imperial crown
   And vow to wear it for my country's good,
   In spite of them shall malice my estate.
ORTYGIUS. And in assurance of desired success,
   We here do crown thee Monarch of the East,
   Emperor of Asia and Persia,
   Great Lord of Medea and Armenia,
   Duke of Africa and Albania,
   Mesopotamia and of Parthia,
   East India and the late discovered isles,
   Chief Lord of all the wide, vast Euxine sea,
   And of the ever-raging Caspian lake.
   Long live Cosroe, mighty Emperor!
COSROE. And Jove may never let me longer live
   Than I may seek to gratify your love,
   And cause the soldiers that thus honour me
   To triumph over many provinces;
   By whose desires of discipline in arms
   I doubt not shortly but to reign sole king,
   And with the army of Theridamas,
   Whither we presently will fly, (my lords,)
   To rest secure against my brother's force.
ORTYGIUS. We knew, my lord, before we brought the crown,
   Intending your investion so near
   The residence of your despised brother,
   The lords would not be too exasperate
   To injure or suppress your worthy title.
   Or if they would, there are in readiness
   Ten thousand horse to carry you from hence
   In spite of all suspected enemies.
COSROE. I know it well, my lord, and thank you all.
ORTYGIUS. Sound up the trumpets, then. God save the king!



    Enter Tamburlaine leading Zenocrate, Techelles,
   Usumcasane, Agydas, Magnetes,other lords, and soldiers
   laden with treasure.

TAMBURLAINE. Come lady, let not this appall your thoughts;
   The jewels and the treasure we have ta'en
   Shall be reserved, and you in better state
   Than if you were arrived in Syria,
   Even in the circle of your father's arms,
   The mighty Soldan of Egyptia.
ZENOCRATE. Ah, shepherd, pity my distressed plight
   (If, as thou seem'st, thou art so mean a man,)
   And seek not to enrich thy followers
   By lawless rapine from a silly maid,
   Who, traveling with these Medean lords
   To Memphis from my uncle's country of Medea,
   Where all my youth I have been governed,
   Have passed the army of the mighty Turk,
   Bearing his privy signet and his hand
   To safe conduct us through Africa.
MAGNETES. And since we have arrived in Scythia,
   Besides rich presents from the puissant Cham,
   We have his highness' letters to command
   Aid and assistance if we stand in need.
TAMBURLAINE. But now you see these letters and commands
   Are countermanded by a greater man,
   And through my provinces you must expect
   Letters of conduct from my mightiness,
   If you intend to keep your treasure safe.
   But since I love to live at liberty,
   As easily may you get the Soldan's crown
   As any prizes out of my precinct.
   For they are friends that help to wean my state,
   Till men and kingdoms help to strengthen it,
   And must maintain my life exempt from servitude.
   But tell me, madam, is your grace betrothed?
ZENOCRATE. I am, my lord, for so you do import.
TAMBURLAINE. I am a lord, for so my deeds shall prove,
   And yet a shepherd by my parentage.
   But, lady, this fair face and heavenly hue
   Must grace his bed that conquers Asia
   And means to be a terror to the world,
   Measuring the limits of his empery
   By east and west, as Phoebus doth his course.
   Lie here, ye weeds that I disdain to wear!
   This complete armour and this curtle-axe
   Are adjuncts more beseeming Tamburlaine.
   And madam, whatsoever you esteem
   Of this success, and loss unvalued,
   Both may invest you empress of the East.
   And these, that seem but silly country swains,
   May have the leading of so great an host
   As with their weight shall make the mountains quake,
   Even as when windy exhalations,
   Fighting for passage, tilt within the earth.
TECHELLES. As princely lions when they rouse themselves,
   Stretching their paws and threatening herds of beasts,
   So in his armour looketh Tamburlaine.
   Methinks I see kings kneeling at his feet,
   And he with frowning brows and fiery looks
   Spurning their crowns from off their captive heads.
USUMCASANE. And making thee and me, Techelles, kings,
   That even to death will follow Tamburlaine.
TAMBURLAINE. Nobly resolved, sweet friends and followers!
   These lords perhaps do scorn our estimates,
   And think we prattle with distempered spirits,
   But since they measure our deserts so mean,
   That in conceit bear empires on our spears,
   Affecting thoughts co-equal with the clouds,
   They shall be kept our forced followers,
   Till with their eyes they view us emperors.
ZENOCRATE. The gods, defenders of the innocent,
   Will never prosper your intended drifts,
   That thus oppress poor friendless passengers.
   Therefore at least admit us liberty,
   Even as thou hop'st to be eternized
   By living Asia's mighty emperor.
AGYDAS. I hope our lady's treasure and our own
   May serve for ransom to our liberties.
   Return our mules and empty camels back,
   That we may travel into Syria,
   Where her betrothed lord, Alcidamus,
   Expects th' arrival of her highness' person.
MAGNETES. And wheresoever we repose ourselves,
   We will report but well of Tamburlaine.
TAMBURLAINE. Disdains Zenocrate to live with me?
   Or you, my lords, to be my followers?
   Think you I weigh this treasure more than you?
   Not all the gold in India's wealthy arms
   Shall buy the meanest soldier in my train.
   Zenocrate, lovelier than the love of Jove,
   Brighter than is the silver Rhodope,
   Fairer than whitest snow on Scythian hills,
   Thy person is more worth to Tamburlaine
   Than the possession of the Persian crown,
   Which gracious stars have promised at my birth.
   A hundred Tartars shall attend on thee,
   Mounted on steeds swifter than Pegasus.
   Thy garments shall be made of Medean silk,
   Enchased with precious jewels of mine own,
   More rich and valurous than Zenocrate's.
   With milk-white harts upon an ivory sled
   Thou shalt be drawn amidst the frozen pools,
   And scale the icy mountains' lofty tops,
   Which with thy beauty will be soon resolved.
   My martial prizes, with five hundred men
   Won on the fifty-headed Volga's waves,
   Shall all we offer to Zenocrate,
   And then myself to fair Zenocrate.
TECHELLES. What now? In love?
TAMBURLAINE. Techelles, women must be flattered.
   But this is she with whom I am in love.

   Enter a soldier.

SOLDIER. News, news!
TAMBURLAINE. How now? What's the matter?
SOLDIER. A thousand Persian horsemen are at hand,
   Sent from the king to overcome us all.
TAMBURLAINE. How now, my lords of Egypt and Zenocrate?
   Now must your jewels be restored again,
   And I that triumphed so be overcome?
   How say you, lordlings? Is not this your hope?
AGYDAS. We hope yourself will willingly restore them.
TAMBURLAINE. Such hope, such fortune, have the thousand horse.
   Soft ye, my lords, and sweet Zenocrate,
   You must be forced from me ere you go.
   A thousand horsemen! We five hundred foot!
   An odds too great for us to stand against.
   But are they rich? And is their armour good?
SOLDIER. Their plumed helms are wrought with beaten gold,
   Their swords enameled, and about their necks
   Hang massy chains of gold down to the waist,
   In every part exceeding brave and rich.
TAMBURLAINE. Then shall we fight courageously with them,
   Or look you I should play the orator?
TECHELLES. No; cowards and fainthearted runaways
   Look for orations when the foe is near.
   Our swords shall play the orators for us.
USUMCASANE. Come, let us meet them at the mountain foot,
   And with a sudden and an hot alarm
   Drive all their horses headlong down the hill.
TECHELLES. Come, let us march.
TAMBURLAINE. Stay, Techelles; ask a parley first.

   The soldiers enter.

   Open the mails; yet guard the treasure sure.
   Lay out our golden wedges to the view,
   That their reflections may amaze the Persians,
   And look we friendly on them when they come.
   But if they offer word or violence,
   We'll fight, five hundred men-at-arms to one,
   Before we part with our possession.
   And 'gainst the general we will lift our swords,
   And either lance his greedy thirsting throat,
   Or take him prisoner, and his chain shall serve
   For manacles till he be ransomed home.
TECHELLES. I hear them come. Shall we encounter them?
TAMBURLAINE. Keep all your standings, and not stir a foot:
   Myself will bide the danger of the brunt. .

   Enter Theridamas with others.

THERIDAMAS. Where is this Scythian, Tamburlaine?
TAMBURLAINE. Whom seek'st thou, Persian? I am Tamburlaine.
THERIDAMAS. Tamburlaine! A Scythian shepherd so embellished
   With nature's pride and richest furniture!
   His looks do menace heaven and dare the gods.
   His fiery eyes are fixed upon the earth
   As if he now devised some stratagem,
   Or meant to pierce Avernus' darksome vaults
   To pull the triple-headed dog from hell.
TAMBURLAINE. Noble and mild this Persian seems to be,
   If outward habit judge the inward man.
TECHELLES. His deep affections make him passionate.
TAMBURLAINE. With what a majesty he rears his looks!
   In thee, thou valiant man of Persia,
   I see the folly of thy emperor.
   Art thou but captain of a thousand horse,
   That by characters graven in thy brows,
   And by thy martial face and stout aspect,
   Deserv'st to have the leading of an host?
   Forsake thy king and do but join with me,
   And we will triumph over all the world.
   I hold the Fates bound fast in iron chains,
   And with my hand turn Fortune's wheel about,
   And sooner shall the sun fall from his sphere
   Than Tamburlaine be slain or overcome.
   Draw forth thy sword, thou mighty man-at-arms,
   Intending but to raze my charmed skin,
   And Jove himself will stretch his hand from heaven
   To ward the blow and shield me safe from harm.
   See how he rains down heaps of gold in showers,
   As if he meant to give my soldiers pay;
   And as a sure and grounded argument
   That I shall be the monarch of the East,
   He sends this Soldan's daughter, rich and brave,
   To be my queen and portly emperess.
   If thou wilt stay with me, renowned man,
   And lead thy thousand horse with my conduct,
   Besides thy share of this Egyptian prize,
   Those thousand horse shall sweat with martial spoil
   Of conquered kingdoms and of cities sacked.
   Both we will walk upon the lofty cliffs,
   And Christian merchants, that with Russian stems
   Plow up huge furrows in the Caspian sea,
   Shall vail to us as lords of all the lake.
   Both we will reign as consuls of the earth,
   And mighty kings shall be our senators.
   Jove sometimes masked in a shepherd's weed,
   And by those steps that he hath scaled the heavens,
   May we become immortal like the gods.
   Join with me now in this my mean estate,
   (I call it mean because, being yet obscure,
   The nations far removed admire me not,)
   And when my name and honour shall be spread
   As far as Boreas claps his brazen wings,
   Or fair Bootes sends his cheerful light,
   Then shalt thou be competitor with me,
   And sit with Tamburlaine in all his majesty.
THERIDAMAS. Not Hermes, prolocutor to the gods,
   Could use persuasions more pathetical.
TAMBURLAINE. Nor are Apollo's oracles more true
   Than thou shalt find my vaunts substantial.
TECHELLES. We are his friends, and if the Persian king
   Should offer present dukedoms to our state,
   We think it loss to make exchange for that
   We are assured of by our friend's success.
USUMCASANE. And kingdoms at the least we all expect,
   Besides the honour in assured conquests,
   Where kings shall crouch unto our conquering swords
   And hosts of soldiers stand amazed at us,
   When with their fearful tongues they shall confess
   These are the men that all the world admires.
THERIDAMAS. What strong enchantments 'tice my yielding soul!
   Ah, these resolved noble Scythians!
   But shall I prove a traitor to my king?
TAMBURLAINE. No, but the trusty friend of Tamburlaine.
THERIDAMAS. Won with thy words, and conquered with thy looks,
   I yield myself, my men, and horse to thee,
   To be partaker of thy good or ill,
   As long as life maintains Theridamas.
TAMBURLAINE. Theridamas, my friend, take here my hand,
   Which is as much as if I swore by heaven
   And called the gods to witness of my vow.
   Thus shall my heart be still combined with thine,
   Until our bodies turn to elements,
   And both our souls aspire celestial thrones.
   Techelles and Casane, welcome him.
TECHELLES. Welcome, renowned Persian, to us all.
USUMCASANE. Long may Theridamas remain with us.
TAMBURLAINE. These are my friends in whom I more rejoice
   Than doth the king of Persia in his crown;
   And by the love of Pylades and Orestes,
   Whose statues we adore in Scythia,
   Thyself and them shall never part from me
   Before I crown you kings in Asia.
   Make much of them, gentle Theridamas,
   And they will never leave thee till the death.
THERIDAMAS. Nor thee, nor them, thrice noble Tamburlaine,
   Shall want my heart to be with gladness pierced,
   To do you honour and security.
TAMBURLAINE. A thousand thanks, worthy Theridamas.
   And now, fair madam, and my noble lords,
   If you will willingly remain with me,
   You shall have honours as your merits be,
   Or else you shall be forced with slavery.
AGYDAS. We yield unto thee, happy Tamburlaine.
TAMBURLAINE. For you then, madam, I am out of doubt.
ZENOCRATE. I must be pleased perforce, wretched Zenocrate!